By Vanessa McCray
---- — TRAVERSE CITY-- Bus and plane travelers can ride and fly with Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott.
A new reading program allows visitors and commuters to download free literary classics such as "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Little Women" to e-reader devices and smartphones.
The Traverse Area District Library, Bay Area Transportation Authority and Cherry Capital Airport teamed to promote the service, which offers more than 30,000 books held in the public domain. The Books on the Go program launches Monday, timed for spring break travel.
"I was playing around with it, and I was able to download the entire works of Shakespeare within seconds," said Metta Lansdale, TADL director.
Bus riders and fliers can look for program posters at BATA transit stations at Hall Street and at the corner of Cass and South Airport roads, and in the airport's baggage claim and boarding gate areas. The posters include a digital code that can be scanned by smartphones and e-readers with the necessary application. The QR code leads users to a website to download free copies of biographies, dramas, fiction and other books with expired copyrights.
Users do not need a library card or account. The service is free, and the books do not expire.
"It's a great opportunity to get those literary classics," said airport Director Kevin Klein.
Lansdale said library usage of e-books surged recently. The library offers its patrons access to an e-book collection that includes best-sellers and other new titles, but those books expire and patrons must live in the library's taxing district.
"This service that we are launching with the airport and BATA is a specialized service," Lansdale said. "It's completely free to anybody, and there are no restrictions on where you live, and we are really aiming at travelers and commuters and visitors from out of town."
BATA Executive Director Tom Menzel said the program generated interest because the agency is "looking for innovative and creative ways to improve."
"We do have quite a few riders right now who are using their laptops on the bus. This gives them a whole other avenue to pursue," said Carrie Thompson, BATA's business development director.
Officials said the program cost little to implement, except for promotional printing costs.
"Libraries are all about literacy and e-books are really bringing stuff even closer than they have ever been," Lansdale said. "What we want is to see people reading."
The program's books also can be found online at www.tadl.org/onthego.